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West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis is plotting a sensational double swoop to sign defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones from Manchester United this summer (Mirror).
The Baggies boss, who has previously raided the Old Trafford to sign Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans in recent years, is hoping that he could add the two England centre-halves to his ranks as well, ahead of the next season.
Pulis is in the market for defensive reinforcements, after having let go of veteran defender Jonas Olsson at the end of last season. And with fellow centre-back Gareth McAuley set to turn 38 in December, the manager feels the need to add more fresh blood to the backline before the transfer window closes.
The £15.3m rated Smalling has had to go through a fall from grace at Old Trafford last season. After having established himself as the first-choice centre-half in the much-maligned Louis Van Gaal era, the 27-year old went on to be named as the club’s third captain – behind Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick. However, things changed upon Jose Mourinho’s arrival in the last summer.
The England international had a spate of injuries over the course of the season, which meant that he had to spend a lot of time on the sidelines and lost a regular place in the side, with the likes of Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind all impressing the Portuguese manager. Having lost his place, Smalling was also pushed further down the pecking order in the captaincy ranks, with Antonio Valencia emerging ahead of him.
Following the summer arrival of Victor Lindelof, it looks certain that it is curtains for the 27-year old at United. Jones, on the other hand, has had an injury-ridden time at Old Trafford, since he moved from Blackburn Rovers. However, whenever he was given a chance last time around, he did quite well, until another injury had him ruled out for the season. It is understood that the manager believes Jones can be an option that he can count upon and is unlikely to sanction his sale.
Smalling may not have had the best of the seasons last time out, but he has, time and again, displayed that he can cut it out at this stage. Despite an overall poor 2016/17 season, there were several glimpses of his true abilities. And he put in an excellent shift in the finals of the UEFA Europa League against AFC Ajax, helping the team to the trophy.
The former Fulham defender has been performing at this level for a number of years now and last season’s downslide in form could very well be accounted for the fact that there was not enough trust between himself and Mourinho, which can cause a player to lose confidence.
At 27, he is still entering the best years of his career. He is tall, strong and comes in with years of experience under his belt in the English top-flight. The England international completely fits the bill of the defenders Tony Pulis likes to have at his disposal, with his towering height and physicality. Yes, there is that moment of lost concentration every now and then, but with a hard taskmaster like Pulis, that can be ironed out.
Pulis has turned around the fortunes of Jonny Evans – a man who was deemed surplus to requirements at United by Van Gaal, since his move to the Hawthorns, and it is very likely that he could do just that with Smalling as well. With Jones unlikely to be sold, West Brom should prioritise the capture of Smalling as he definitely has the potential to become the leader of their defence for years to come.